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I had very little background on this film before I saw it. Perhaps had I seen the play or read more about the concept of the work, my opinion would be better or worse. But as it stands, I enjoyed it…at least to the point you can enjoy such a heavy piece of work. I left the theater feeling I did when I saw “Precious”: glad I saw the film, recognizing it was a special piece of work, but ambivalent about the over-the-top darkness that resonated in the film. Both films try to take you to a place you’ve never seen on film, a place you didn’t even think film would go ie murdered kids and graphic tales of molestation. The strong: SUPERB acting, from most involved. Rashad, Elise, Devine, and Rose brought Oscar-worthy performances. Perry will get props here for choosing a wonderfully-talented cast to pull off a challenging piece of art. Thandie Newton and Kerry Washingtong both did respectable jobs as did Whoopi Goldberg and the younger cast member whose name escapes me. Another strong element was the concept. I don’t know if it was pulled off to a tee, which I will mention later, but I found the poems brilliantly written and delivered and the concept of documenting intertwining lives interesting. The weak: The exception to the superb acting cast would be Janet Jackson. Once again, Perry tries to force her to be better than she is, and once again, he/she comes up short. As another commenter stated, she just doesn’t have it. I will give her props on finding a way to garner up the tears on cue when going through her poem lines, but as a whole, she is stiff and unmoving as an actress. But she does wear her color (I guess they all have colors or something?) red well. Maybe that’s why she was chosen for the role? Who knows except Perry why he continues to go that same well for his films. I digress there though. Another glaring weakness of the film is that once again Perry’s lack of good instinct as a director is evident. WHY for the love of all things holy did he have the cast recite ALL THE LINES OF THE POEMS? Did he not watch the film in the edit room and see that the poems were too long-drawn out for a film and could easily be too much for the audience? Where are his instincts? Even movie-watching instincts. It seems he should have recognized that the script needed major tweaking. It’s troubling that even now, after all his success in his many films, he still has not captured more sophistication as a director. The film could have easily been sliced down by at least 30 minutes and been just as effective–actually moreso–than it was. I do not know if this is a weakness of the film or if the original play was written for just this effect, but it is obvious that the author hated men. Virtually all the men were portrayed not just as mean or insensitive, but as devils. And there was no subtlety. The blatancy of the double standard was rather insulting and off-putting. But again, perhaps that is where the author meant to go with the piece. In sum, while there were major areas that could have been improved, I have to call foul on some of the critics’ assault of this film, and their proclivity to compare it to other–admittedly weak–Tyler Perry works. Though Perry’s fingerprints are all over this film, including the garden variety Madea-esquire funny lines from the resident overweight character to the stoicism of the well-to-do professional with the troubled marriage (Jackson’s character is practically a mirror image of her character in other Perry films), I do think this film is of better quit than most of his offerings, and he should be given credit for elevating his game a little bit. Perry knows his audience well and though it can be argued that he sometimes seems to “dumb down” for laughs or whatever, he has to be given credit for being loyal to his fans. Time and time again, he gives them what they expect–a safe thing to do yes, but an amazing show of loyalty nonetheless. This film should not have a score as low as the 3.6 it has right now. The great acting alone carries it to at least the mid-way mark. Though I want to give it a 6.5 and could thus go for a 6 or 7 on the IMDb scale, I am going to up-rate it to counter what I believe is unfairly low number at the current moment.